As we have repeatedly stressed, the discovery of large gas fields off the coast of Israel, Cyprus, Egypt and Lebanon, has meant that the Eastern Mediterranean plays an important role in the geopolitics of energy. in the deep offshore it is only profitable in the long term and presents significant technical and economic challenges. Not only that: the political power that governs this area of the eastern Mediterranean rests with three authorities with whom it is necessary to deal, whose economic interests may diverge in the time. This reality puts a strain on the future prospects of this area, at least until the political dimension has been resolved in a secure way.
Large deposits of natural gas have been discovered in the EEZs of Egypt, Israel and Cyprus. The smaller EEZs of Syria and Lebanon have yet to be explored or confirmed. These discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean would have potential reserves of the order of 3.5 trillion cubic meters of gas, of which about half are proven reserves equivalent to those still available for Norway after thirty years of supply from the European Union. In particular, almost at the same distance from the coasts of their country, are the three deposits of Zohr (Egypt), Leviathan (Israel) and Aphrodite (Cyprus) respectively with proven reserves of 850, 450 and 140, for a total of 1,440 billion. of cubic meters. The leaders of these three countries came together to consider a common solution to commercialize this gas for export. There has been talk of the construction of an underwater gas pipeline to Greece and Italy, which would be a direct competitor of the Azerbaijani gas that crosses Turkey.
At the same time, the governments of Turkey and Libya have demarcated their EEZ borders, invading the EEZs of the countries listed above, creating additional sources of uncertainty and legal complications. Finally, Turkey’s show of strength by sending seismic vessels in preparation for exploration operations in the Greek EEZ only added to an already tense geopolitical climate. All these factors of uncertainty and potential conflicts are not conducive to the development of gas production in this area of the eastern Mediterranean. This situation does not prevent Egypt and Israel from producing, consuming and exporting gas from fields near their coasts, the ownership of which is not in question.
We come now to Turkey. It must be emphasized that there is a geographical misunderstanding: the great discovery announced on 21 August 2020 by President Erdogan is not located in the Mediterranean, but in the Black Sea. This is the Sakarya field located about 170 kilometers north of the Turkish coast. with a water depth of 2,110 meters and a total depth of 4,775 meters. According to public information, it was discovered by drilling a single well, the Tuna-1, carried out by the exploration ship Fatih (“the conqueror”, in Turkish). The reserves, initially announced at 800 billion cubic meters, were revalued by the operator TPAO (Turkish Petroleum Corporation) to 320 then to 405 billion cubic meters on 17 October 2020. A second Turkali 1 drilling is scheduled for November. A second exploration vessel, the Kanuni (“the legislator” in Turkish) is about to reach the Black Sea.
Sakarya has the advantage of being close to the Turkish market. If produced, its gas will supply the Turkish market, strengthen the country’s security of supply and improve its trade balance.
However, putting Sakarya into production in 2023 is a goal that ignores the timing of the gas industry. This finding will need to be confirmed before moving on to the design and construction of the production phase facilities of the project.
Let us not forget that Turkey’s ambitions are multidimensional and multifaceted. They have a direct impact on Europe from the Atlantic to the Caucasus via the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Obviously the geopolitical and religious dimensions take precedence over the others, and it is not clear whether they have their own strategic dimension or are simply tactics. That said, energy ambitions are very legitimate for any country, especially when it comes to security of gas supply.
Turkey’s gas supply is between 45 and 50 billion cubic meters per year; it is well diversified. The gas arrives west from the Turk Stream, which will gradually replace the historical route through Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria, north from the Blue Stream across the Black Sea at a depth of 2,000 meters, to the east from the border with Iran and to the north- east from the border with Georgia for Azerbaijani gas. In addition, two terrestrial LNG terminals (Izmir Aliaga, Marmara Ereglesi) and two floating LNG terminals (Etki and Dörtyol) have a total reception capacity of around 25 billion of cubic meters, of which only half is used, which leaves considerable flexibility; they receive liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Algeria, Nigeria, Qatar and other sources, most recently shale gas from the United States.
As for the TANAP (Trans Anatolian Pipeline) recently put into service, 6 billion cubic meters per year of Azerbaijani gas will transit in a first phase to Greece, which represents just over 1% of the needs of the European Union. . This is what remains of the “Southern Corridor” project, once studied under the name “Nabucco”, promoted by the European Union to reduce the Russian influence in the gas supply.
In short, these discoveries of large natural gas fields have determined an evident conflict, exacerbating the geopolitical problems already existing in a region that is certainly not simple from a geopolitical point of view.
We think of the fact that Israel is at war with Lebanon and the two countries do not agree on the course of their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZs); Syria is in ruins, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues and the question of a possible EEZ for Gaza remains; Turkey still occupies the northern part of Cyprus, denies the island the right to have an EEZ and calls into question the Treaty of Lausanne which established, in 1923, the Greek-Turkish borders and finally, Libya is destabilized and at war civil, with foreign interventions that further complicate the stability of the region.
These discoveries considerably modify the energetic destiny of the states bordering the Levantine basin. Israel becomes a natural gas exporting power, Egypt initially meets its needs and plans to become a regional energy hub, Cyprus relies on its natural resources to achieve the reunification of the island. Similarly, Lebanon and Syria could consider exploiting their respective resources; Lebanon granted the first research / exploitation licenses and Syria did the same to the advantage, not surprisingly, of Russian companies. And once again Turkey plays a decisive role in this game.
But returning to Turkey, the occupation of the northern part of Cyprus (since 1974) is one of the components of the question. The novelty comes from Turkey’s reaction to the possibility of Cyprus exploiting the natural resources located in its EEZ. We recall that Cyprus delimited its EEZ with Egypt and Israel, signed with Lebanon and was in talks with Syria (before the conflict) on the basis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982). The island then granted research / exploitation agreements to various companies. The American company Noble Energy, the Italian-Korean consortium ENI-Kogas, the French Total, alone or in joint venture with ENI, and the American ExxonMobil ally of Qatar Petroleum have obtained the licenses.
Turkey, for its part, claims that Cyprus, like all islands in the Mediterranean, does not have an EEZ. Ankara, which does not recognize the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, has an arbitrary position on the subject, a position of its own: it believes that the islands have no EEZs in closed or semi-enclosed seas. .
Despite Turkish threats to oil companies working with Cyprus, there have been numerous exploratory drillings in the country’s EEZ and significant discoveries of natural gas in exploitable quantities: Noble Energy (discovery of a field containing 100 to 170 billion cubic meters of natural gas in block 12), ExxonMobil with Qatar Petroleum (from 170 to 230 billion cubic meters in block 10) and ENI with Total (large field not yet quantified in block 6).
Faced with these findings, Turkey has become even more aggressive, sending exploration and drilling vessels into Cypriot waters, accompanied by warships. Turkey carried out eight illegal polls in the EEZ of Cyprus. Apply the tactic of encirclement in Cyprus by constantly maintaining pressure on it, with, ultimately, full control of the island. His latest provocation, apart from the almost constant invasion of his EEZ, was the opening to exploitation and finally the colonization, on 8 October, of the closed quarter of Famagusta, a port city emptied of its population in 1974 and left by a ghost city.
In conjunction with the threat to Cyprus, a growing threat to Greece is growing. Since 10 August 2020, Turkey has deployed its seismic ship Oruç Reis, accompanied by naval military forces, to the Greek maritime space, up to the coast of Crete, forcing Greece to do the same. Greece, France, Italy and Cyprus conducted a joint military exercise in the Eastern Mediterranean from 26 to 28 August, sending a clear message on the willingness of these countries to uphold respect for international law.
According to a statement by the French Ministry of Armed Forces, “Cyprus, Greece, France and Italy have decided to deploy a joint presence in the Eastern Mediterranean as part of the quadripartite cooperation initiative”. The Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, further specified that the Mediterranean “must not be a playground for the ambitions of some; it is a common good “.
The Turkish president specified on her part: “We will absolutely not make any concessions on what belongs to us. We urge our counterparts to […] beware of any mistakes that could pave the way for their undoing. Then he added: “Turkey will take what is rightfully its own in the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean […]. For this, we are determined to do whatever is necessary politically, economically and militarily.” The speech is was pronounced during a ceremony commemorating the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, which marks the entry of the Turks into Anatolia, following the victory of the Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan over the Byzantines. The navies of the two countries are on the verge of clash August a Greek ship collides with a Turkish ship.
To the already complicated situation, Turkey has added a new element related to the Libyan conflict. Since the fall of Colonel Gaddafi, Libya has entered an area of instability in which many actors with diverging interests have submerged. Egypt, supported by the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, supports Marshal Haftar, who controls Cyrenaica. Russia is also in this field. On the contrary, Turkey, backed by Qatar, supports the Sarraj government, which controls the Tripoli region. Taking advantage of this support, Turkey signed two agreements (November 27, 2019) with the Tripoli master. One military, the other seafarer. The maritime continental shelf delimitation agreement between the two countries completely ignores the existence of Cyprus, Crete and other Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. Furthermore, Erdogan’s desire to gain a foothold in the African continent and change the geopolitical situation in this area upsets many other international actors. Libya is for Turkey, one of the “entrances” to this space, hence his desire to establish permanent bases in this country.
This explosive geopolitical situation shows the need to develop cooperation in this troubled region. Cooperation between Cyprus, Greece and Israel quickly took shape. Others followed, involving Egypt and Jordan, again with the participation of Cyprus and Greece. Italy and France are also very present for the involvement of ENI and Total, but also to protect this common vital space that is the Mediterranean.
The signing, in early January 2020, of an interstate agreement between Israel, Cyprus and Greece, for the construction of the EastMed submarine pipeline, is one of the ambitious plans of this cooperation. At a cost of around 7 billion euros, this pipeline would allow the delivery of Cypriot and Israeli gas to mainland Greece, via Crete, and beyond to Italy and Western Europe (between 9 and 11 billion cubic meters / year, corresponding about 15% of European energy consumption in natural gas). Although economically this project is costly, geopolitically it is of utmost importance for building Europe’s energy independence. It should also be noted that in January 2019 the countries of the region created the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, which aims to manage the future gas market – a coalition that includes Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Italy, Jordan and Palestine. Turkey denounces that this could threaten its interests. However, three other positive developments occurred during the summer of 2020: Greece proceeded with the delimitation of its EEZ with Italy and Egypt and this delimitation, based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, obviously recognizes a EEZs for the islands.
Finally, the European Council reaffirms in its conclusions of 2 October 2020 its solidarity with Cyprus and Greece, specifying that sanctions would be adopted against Turkey if the latter continued to violate the EEZs of the two EU member countries ; Ankara immediately rejected the decision, saying its eastern Mediterranean research program would continue. Especially since the Oruc Reis is still in Cypriot waters and that Turkey has decided to open the closed district of Famagusta to exploitation, certainly for the purpose of imminent colonization, and this in violation of all the resolutions of international organizations. Turkey’s continued pressure on Cyprus is not only intensifying dangerously but Turkey is engaging in a lucid political projection of maritime power.
Oil and the new world order: China, Iran and Eurasia
The world oil market will undergo a fundamental change in the future. Choosing petrodollars or oil wars is no longer a question that can be answered. With the Strategic Agreement on the Comprehensive Economic and Security Partnership between China and Iran officially signed by the Foreign Ministers of both countries in Tehran on March 27, 2021, the petrodollar theorem is broken and the empire built by the US dollar is cracked.
This is because the petrodollar has not brought substantial economic development to the oil-producing countries in the Middle East during over half a century of linkage to the US dollar.
The Middle East countries generally have not their own industrial systems. The national economies are heavily dependent on oil exports and imports of cereals and industrial products. The national finances are driven by the US dollar and the financial system that follows it.
If the Middle East countries wanted to escape the control of the dollar, they should face the threat of war from the United States and its allies – things we have seen over and over again. Just think of Saddam Hussein being supported when he was fighting Iran and later being Public Enemy No. 1 when he started trading oil in euros.
The West has always wanted the Middle East to be an oil ‘sacred cow’ and has not enabled it to develop its own modern industrial system: the lack of progress in the Middle East was intended as long-term blackmail.
In the Western system of civilisation based on exchange of views and competition, the West is concerned that Iran and the entire Middle East may once again restore the former glory and hegemony of the Persian, Arab and Ottoman empires.
China is facing the exploitation of the global oil market and the threat of its supply disruption. Relying on industrial, financial, and military strength, Europe and the United States control the oil production capital, trade markets, dollar settlements, and global waterways that make up the entire petrodollar world order, differentiating China and the Middle East and dividing the world on the basis of the well-known considerations. You either choose the dollar or you choose war – and the dollar has long been suffering.
Just as in ancient times nomadic tribes blocked the Silk Road and monopolised trade between East and West, Europe and the United States are holding back and halting cooperation and development of the whole of Asia and the rest of the planet. Centuries ago, it was a prairie cavalry, bows, arrows and scimitars: today it is a navy ship and a financial system denominated in dollars.
Therefore, China and Iran, as well as the entire Middle East, are currently looking for ways to avoid middlemen and intermediaries and make the difference. If there is another strong power that can provide military security and at the same time offer sufficient funds and industrial products, the whole Middle East oil can be freed from the dominance of the dollar and can trade directly to meet demand, and even introduce new modern industrial systems.
Keeping oil away from the US dollar and wars and using oil for cooperation, mutual assistance and common development is the inner voice of the entire Middle East and developing countries: a power that together cannot be ignored in the world.
The former Soviet Union had hoped to use that power and strength to improve its system. However, it overemphasised its own geostrategic and paracolonial interests – turning itself into a social-imperialist superpower competing with the White House. Moreover, the USSR lacked a cooperative and shared mechanism to strengthen its alliances, and eventually its own cronies began to rebel as early as the 1960s.
More importantly – although the Soviet Union at the time could provide military security guarantees for allied countries – it was difficult for it to provide economic guarantees and markets, although the Soviet Union itself was a major oil exporter. The natural competitive relationship between the Soviet Union and the Middle East, as well as the Soviet Union’s weak industrial capacity, eventually led to the disintegration of the whole system, starting with the defection of Sadat’s Egypt in 1972. Hence the world reverted to the unipolarised dollar governance once the Soviet katekon collapsed nineteen years later.
With the development and rise of its economy, however, now China has also begun to enter the world scene and needs to establish its own new world order, after being treated as a trading post by Britain in the 19th century, later divided into zones of influence by the West and Japan, and then quarantined by the United States after the Second World War.
Unlike the US and Soviet world order, China’s proposal is not a paracolonial project based on its own national interests, nor is it an old-fashioned “African globalisation” plan based on multinationals, and it is certainly not an ideological export.
For years, there has been talk of Socialism with Chinese characteristics and certainly not of attempts to impose China’s Marxism on the rest of the world, as was the case with Russia. China, instead, wishes to have a new international economic order characterised by cooperation, mutual assistance and common development.
Unlike the Western civilisation based on rivalry and competition, the Eastern civilisation, which pays more attention to harmony without differences and to coordinated development, is trying to establish a new world economic order with a completely different model from those that wrote history in blood.
Reverting to the previous treaty, between the US dollar and the war, China has offered Iran and even the world a third choice. China seems increasingly willing to exist as a service provider. This seems to be more useful for China, first of all to solve its own problems and not to get involved in endless international disputes.
It can thus be more accepted by all countries around the world and unite more States to break the joint encirclement of the “democratic” and liberal imperialism of Europe and the United States.
Consequently, China and Iran – whose origins date back almost to the same period – met at a critical moment in history. According to the Strategic Agreement on Comprehensive Economic and Security Partnership between China and Iran, China will invest up to 400 billion dollars in dozens of oil fields in Iran over the next 25 years, as well as in banking, telecommunications, ports, railways, healthcare, 5G networks, GPS, etc.
China will help Iran build the entire modern industrial system. At the same time, it will receive a heavily discounted and long-term stable supply of Iranian oil. The Sino-Iranian partnership will lay the foundations for a proposed new world order, with great respect for Eastern values, not based on some failed, decadent and increasingly radicalising principles.
Faced with the value restraint and the pressure of sanctions from the United States and Europe, China is seeking to unite the European third Rome, Indo-European Iran, the second Rome and the five Central Asian countries to create a powerful geoeconomic counterpart in the hinterland of Eurasia.
The stages and choices of energy production from hydrogen
There are three main ways to use hydrogen energy:
1) internal combustion;
2) conversion to electricity using a fuel cell;
3) nuclear fusion.
The basic principle of a hydrogen internal combustion engine is the same as that of a gasoline or diesel internal combustion engine. The hydrogen internal combustion engine is a slightly modified version of the traditional gasoline internal combustion engine. Hydrogen internal combustion burns hydrogen directly without using other fuels or producing exhaust water vapour.
Hydrogen internal combustion engines do not require any expensive special environment or catalysts to fully do the job – hence there are no problems of excessive costs. Many successfully developed hydrogen internal combustion engines are hybrid, meaning they can use liquid hydrogen or gasoline as fuel.
The hydrogen internal combustion engine thus becomes a good transition product. For example, if you cannot reach your destination after refuelling, but you find a hydrogen refuelling station, you can use hydrogen as fuel. Or you can use liquid hydrogen first and then a regular refuelling station. Therefore, people will not be afraid of using hydrogen-powered vehicles when hydrogen refuelling stations are not yet widespread.
The hydrogen internal combustion engine has a small ignition energy; it is easy to achieve combustion – hence better fuel saving can be achieved under wider working conditions.
The application of hydrogen energy is mainly achieved through fuel cells. The safest and most efficient way to use it is to convert hydrogen energy into electricity through such cells.
The basic principle of hydrogen fuel cell power generation is the reverse reaction of electrolysis of water, hydrogen and oxygen supplied to the cathode and anode, respectively. The hydrogen spreading – after the electrolyte reaction – makes the emitted electrons reach the anode through the cathode by means of an external load.
The main difference between the hydrogen fuel cell and the ordinary battery is that the latter is an energy storage device that stores electrical energy and releases it when needed, while the hydrogen fuel cell is strictly a power generation device, like a power plant.
The same as an electrochemical power generation device that directly converts chemical energy into electrical energy. The use of hydrogen fuel cell to generate electricity, directly converts the combustion chemical energy into electrical energy without combustion.
The energy conversion rate can reach 60% to 80% and has a low pollution rate. The device can be large or small, and it is very flexible. Basically, hydrogen combustion batteries work differently from internal combustion engines: hydrogen combustion batteries generate electricity through chemical reactions to propel cars, while internal combustion engines use heat to drive cars.
Because the fuel cell vehicle does not entail combustion in the process, there is no mechanical loss or corrosion. The electricity generated by the hydrogen combustion battery can be used directly to drive the four wheels of the vehicle, thus leaving out the mechanical transmission device.
The countries that are developing research are aware that the hydrogen combustion engine battery will put an end to pollution. Technology research and development have already successfully produced hydrogen cell vehicles: the cutting-edge car-prucing industries include GM, Ford, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and other major international companies.
In the case of nuclear fusion, the combination of hydrogen nuclei (deuterium and tritium) into heavier nuclei (helium) releases huge amounts of energy.
Thermonuclear reactions, or radical changes in atomic nuclei, are currently very promising new energy sources. The hydrogen nuclei involved in the nuclear reaction, such as hydrogen, deuterium, fluorine, lithium, iridium (obtained particularly from meteorites fallen on our planet), etc., obtain the necessary kinetic energy from thermal motion and cause the fusion reaction.
The thermonuclear reaction itself behind the hydrogen bomb explosion, which can produce a large amount of heat in an instant, cannot yet be used for peaceful purposes. Under specific conditions, however, the thermonuclear reaction can achieve a controlled thermonuclear reaction. This is an important aspect for experimental research. The controlled thermonuclear reaction is based on the fusion reactor. Once a fusion reactor is successful, it can provide mankind with the cleanest and most inexhaustible source of energy.
The feasibility of a larger controlled nuclear fusion reactor is tokamak. Tokamak is a toroidal-shaped device that uses a powerful magnetic field to confine plasma. Tokamak is one of several types of magnetic confinement devices developed to produce controlled thermonuclear fusion energy. As of 2021, it is the leading candidate for a fusion reactor.
The name tokamak comes from Russian (toroidal’naja kamera s magnitnymi katuškami: toroidal chamber with magnetic coils). Its magnetic configuration is the result of research conducted in 1950 by Soviet scientists Andrei Dmitrievič Sakharov (1921-1989) and Igor’ Evgen’evič Tamm (1895-1971), although the name dates back more precisely to 1957.
At the centre of tokamak there is a ring-shaped vacuum chamber with coils wound outside. When energized, a huge spiral magnetic field is generated inside the tokamak, which heats the plasma inside to a very high temperature, which achieves the purpose of nuclear fusion.
Energy, resources and environmental problems urgently need hydrogen energy to solve the environmental crisis, but the preparation of hydrogen energy is not yet mature, and most of the research on hydrogen storage materials is still in the exploratory laboratory stage. Hydrogen energy production should also focus on the “biological” production of hydrogen.
Other methods of hydrogen production are unsustainable and do not meet scientific development requirements. Within biological production, microbial production requires an organic combination of genetic engineering and chemical engineering so that existing technology can be fully used to develop hydrogen-producing organisms that meet requirements as soon as possible. Hydrogen production from biomass requires continuous improvement and a vigorous promotion of technology. It is a difficult process.
Hydrogen storage focused on the discovery of new aspects of materials or their preparation is not yet at large-scale industrial level. Considering different hydrogen storage mechanisms, and the material to be used, also needs further study.
Furthermore, each hydrogen storage material has its own advantages and disadvantages, and most storage material properties have the characteristics that relate to adductivity and properties of a single, more commonly known material.
It is therefore believed that efforts should be focused on the development of a composite hydrogen storage material, which integrates the storage advantages of multiple individual materials, along the lines of greater future efforts.
The advantages of hydrogen and Israel’s warnings
Hydrogen is the most common element in nature. It is estimated to make up 75% of the mass of the universe. Except for that contained in air, it is primarily stored in water in the form of a compound, and water is the most widely distributed substance on earth.
Hydrogen has the best thermal conductivity of all gases – i.e. ten times higher than most of them – and it is therefore an excellent heat transfer carrier in the energy industry.
Hydrogen has good combustion performance, rapid ignition, and has a wide fuel range when mixed with air. It has a high ignition point and rapid combustion rate.
Except for nuclear fuels, the calorific value of hydrogen is the highest among all fossil and chemical fuels, as well as biofuels, reaching 142.35 kJ/kg. The calorie per kilogram of hydrogen burned is about three times that of gasoline and 3.9 times that of alcohol, as well as 4.5 times that of coke.
Hydrogen has the lightest weight of all elements. It can appear as gas, liquid, or solid metal hydride, which can adapt to different storage and transport needs and to various application environments.
Burning hydrogen is cleaner than other fuels – besides generating small amounts of water – and does not produce hydrogen azide as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide (harmful to the environment), hydrocarbons, lead compounds and dust particles, etc. A small amount of hydrogen nitride will not pollute the environment after proper treatment, and the water produced by combustion can continue to produce hydrogen and be reused repeatedly.
Extensive use practices show that hydrogen has a record of safe use. There were 145 hydrogen-related accidents in the United States between 1967 and 1977, all of which occurred in petroleum refining, the chlor-alkali industry, or nuclear power plants, and did not really involve energy applications.
Experience in the use of hydrogen shows that common hydrogen accidents can be summarized as follows: undetected leaks; safety valve failure; emptying system failure; broken pipes, tubes or containers; property damage; poor replacement; air or oxygen and other impurities left in the system; too high hydrogen discharge rate; possible damage of pipe and tube joints or bellows; accidents or tipping possibly occurring during the hydrogen transmission process.
These accidents require two additional conditions to cause a fire: one is the source of the fire and the other is the fact that the mixture of hydrogen and air or oxygen must be within the limits of the possibility of fires or violent earthquakes in the local area.
Under these two conditions, an accident cannot be caused if proper safety measures are established. In fact, with rigorous management and careful implementation of operating procedures, most accidents do not theoretically occur.
The development of hydrogen energy is triggering a profound energy revolution and could become the main source of energy in the 21st century.
The United States, Europe, Japan, and other developed countries have formulated long-term hydrogen energy development strategies from the perspective of national sustainable development and security strategies.
Israel, however, makes warning and calls for caution.
While the use of hydrogen allows for the widespread penetration of renewable energy, particularly solar and wind energy – which, due to storage difficulties, are less available than demand – Israeli experts say that, despite its many advantages, there are also disadvantages and barriers to integrating green hydrogen into industry, including high production costs and high upfront investment in infrastructure.
According to the Samuel Neaman Institute’s Energy Forum report (April 11, 2021; authors Professors Gershon Grossman and Naama Shapira), Israel is 7-10 years behind the world in producing energy from clean hydrogen.
Prof. Gideon Friedman, actingchief scientist and Director of Research and Development at the Ministry of Energy, explains why: “Israel has a small industry that is responsible for only 10% of greenhouse gas emissions – unlike the world where they are usually 20% – and therefore the problems of emissions in industry are a little less acute in the country.”
At a forum held prior to the report’s presentation, senior officials and energy experts highlighted the problematic nature of integrating clean hydrogen into industry in Israel.
Dr. Yossi Shavit, Head of the cyber unit in industry at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, outlined the risks inherent in hydrogen production, maintenance and transportation, including the fact that it is a colourless and odourless gas that makes it difficult to detect a leak. According to Dr. Shavit, hydrogen is a hazardous substance that has even been defined as such in a new regulation on cyber issues published in 2020.
Dr. Shlomo Wald, former chief scientist at the Ministry of Infrastructure, argued that in the future hydrogen would be used mainly for transportation, along with electricity.
Prof. Lior Elbaz of Bar-Ilan University said that one of the most important things is the lack of laws: “There is no specific regulation for hydrogen in Israel, but it is considered a dangerous substance. In order for hydrogen to be used for storage and transportation, there needs to be a serious set of laws that constitute a bottleneck in our learning curve.” “Israel has something to offer in innovation in the field, but government support will still be needed in this regard – as done in all countries – and approximately a trillion dollars in the field of hydrogen is expected to be invested in the next decade.”
Although the discussion was mainly about Israel’s delay in integrating clean hydrogen into the industry, it has emerged that Sonol (Israel’s fuel supplier ranking third in the country’s gas station chain) is leading a project, together with the Ministry of Transport, to establish Israel’s first hydrogen refuelling station. “We believe there will be hydrogen transportation in Israel for trucks and buses,” said Dr. Amichai Baram, Vice President of operations at Sonol. “Hydrogen-powered vehicles for the country – albeit not really cheap in the initial phase – and regulations promoted in the field, both for gas stations and vehicles.”
Renewables account for only 6% of Israel’s energy sources and, according to the latest plans published by the Ministry of Energy and adopted by the government, the target for 2030 is 30%.
This is an ambitious goal compared to reality, and also far from the goal of the rest of the countries in the world that aim at energy reset by 2050.
The authors of the aforementioned report emphasize that fully using the clean hydrogen potential is key to achieving a higher growth target for Israel.
According to recommendations, the State should critically examine the issue in accordance with Israel’s unique conditions and formulate a strategy for the optimal integration of hydrogen into the energy economy.
Furthermore, it must support implementation, both through appropriate regulations and through the promotion of cooperation with other countries and global companies, as well as through investment in infrastructure, and in research and development, industry and in collaboration with the academic world.
There are countries in Europe or the Middle East that have already started green energy production projects, and finally it was recommended to work to develop Israeli innovations in the field, in collaboration with the Innovation Authority and the Ministry of Energy.
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